Creative Floor Plans for Non-Traditional Shows


Adaptability is arguably one of the most enviable of character traits. It shows an ability to learn while making allowances for transformation. Pearl Zhu, author and visualist of business innovation, makes the observation that “adaptability enforces creativity, and creativity enforces adaptability.”  

Being able to think outside of the box is essential when it comes to working in less than ideal circumstances, especially if the stakes are high. Children seem to have this innate ability to adapt to a variety of circumstances by tapping into an endless resource of imagination and ingenuity. As adults, we observe their capacity for malleability with a sense of awe, wondering if it’s possible to recover our own child-like imagination.

While it’s not possible to change the hands of time, what can be restored is our openness to new circumstances. Everyone can learn new ways to be more adaptable; it can be a learned trait. We all encounter hurdles in life, and it’s critical that we can face them with decisive action. Adaptable people don’t wait for something to happen, they make something happen. Sometimes new circumstances require a creative intervention, forcing us to change what doesn’t work.

Show Managers work in environments with ever-changing variables that usually involve the need for flexibility. One of those variables is the renovation or ongoing construction of a venue, a common situation that many managers find themselves in. Whether you have a natural proclivity to rise to a challenge or one of apprehension, this scenario can empower the deeper parts of you that you never knew existed.

A New Vision

One of the most frustrating jobs for Show Managers is implementing a new vision when the previous one had to be altered due to facility construction. Instead of using the traditional expo space as planned, a manager is left with no choice but to utilize other areas of the building. It’s in these moments, professional or personal when we get to see what we are made of. Canceling the event is not an option, but learning to adapt with a positive attitude is.

Space planning for a trade show needs to accommodate several groups, including attendees, food and drink vendors, exhibitors, welcome, and security personnel. The space also needs to make room for any workshops and demonstration or speaking events. Even though it’s a lot to fit into unconventional areas, it can be done. By creatively utilizing spaces such as the atrium, concourse, and the ballroom, the event can be successful and welcoming.

Optimized for Flow

One of the biggest challenges for any event is creating a floor plan that will effectively handle traffic flow while optimizing visibility for exhibitors. For example, if the larger and more popular booths are all stationed in one area, such as the ballroom, attendees might neglect to visit other areas, like the concourse. Exhibitors with smaller booths want to see the value from the resources they put into the show and won’t want to feel like they have to sacrifice because of inadequate space. One of the best ways to ensure that attendees won’t disregard exhibits is to divide the ones that generate a lot of traffic into different areas. This makes it so attendees will have to go through the lesser trafficked areas to reach the larger exhibits which help ease traffic congestion.

Optimized for Space and Creativity

To drive traffic to all locations, offer a passport-to-prizes program. The program requires attendees to visit sponsored booths to get their book stamped and qualify for prizes. This is a fun and interactive way to encourage guests to visit areas they might not go to otherwise.


Effective space planning promotes productivity by assessing the usefulness of each area. Since a space like an atrium is usually the least valuable and attractive space, using it for logistical purposes might be the way to go. If space doesn’t foster exhibition goals, it would be wasteful to use it on profitable booths. By placing registration in the atrium it means that attendees must go there to check-in. In most cases, badges are mailed out ahead of the event date, but since this is a special circumstance, refrain from doing so this time.

Another way to encourage attendees to visit the atrium is by being creative with food and drink options. Attendees are sure to love an open bar or wine tasting provided on the lower atrium level. Don’t forget to include the younger attendees. Set up a lemonade stand with complimentary cookies from a local bakery to show them you value their attendance as well.


The concourse fills up with attendees quickly due to restricted space. It’s also usually located along the route to educational workshops. If advanced education classes start a day earlier than the show opening, encourage exhibitors to set up a day early. This will allow them to capture an additional day of exposure from those attending the advanced education classes.

A New Accomplishment

Being able to adjust to a diverse set of conditions in life is essential to experiencing a satisfying life. Instead of feeling nervous, trust in your ability to cope with changes. Embrace new challenges you encounter in the trade show industry. Not much compares to the satisfaction of stretching yourself to new heights and experiencing the fruit of your efforts. And you’ll be left feeling more confident than ever.